Pancakes on the Rocks, Beverly Hills

Pancakes on the Rocks has opened up on the corner of Stoney Creek Road and King Georges Road in Beverly Hills, where Vaby's used. What a great addition to the Beverly Hills restaurant strip!

Although it only opened less than a month ago, word has clearly gotten out because there are lines out the door.  We decided to go on a Friday night for dessert and I made sure to book in advance so we were able to skip to the head of the queue.  I felt like a VIP!

The restaurant is very family friendly with big groups and kids everywhere.  It's not hard to see why - the prices are reasonable and there is a lot of variety on the menu.

The hot drinks at Pancakes are pretty ordinary.  No looseleaf tea here - you get a Twinings tea bag.  I ordered the chai latte and it tasted exactly like the powdered Arkadia chai mix that I used to make at home.

Chai latte ($3.95) and English Breakfast tea ($2.95)

Regular Stack ($8.95)
Three pancakes served with ice cream and maple syrup

My friend ordered the regular stack and later requested an extra scoop of ice cream ($1.50).  The extra scoop came in a separate little metal dish and looked bigger than the scoop that comes with the pancakes.
Devil's Delight ($14.95)
Chocolate pancakes with strawberries, cream, chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce

The Devil's Delight used to be my favourite pancake dish - back in the day where my friends and I used to head to the Circular Quay Pancakes after a night out on the town.  It looks exactly the same as it did back then!  The chocolate pancakes were a little bit dry but still nice.

And for those with Entertainment Book vouchers, the Pancakes on the Rocks voucher can be used here :-)

 Pancakes on the Rocks on Urbanspoon

Pho Viet, Cabramatta

I rarely make the trek out to Cabramatta and am a bit of a newbie when it comes to eating in 'Little Vietnam'. But fear not, Luke Nguyen compiled his list of favourite places to eat in Cabramatta and I slavishly followed his direction to Pho Viet on John Street for lunch.

It was a Saturday lunchtime and every table was already taken, save for one.  Unfortunately for us, it was right next to the entrance. Is there anything worse than cold wind intermittently blowing in and out as people enter and exit?  (Maybe the table closet to the toilet).

When we spotted another table had freed up, we asked to move to the better table and it was no problem at all for the friendly staff.

Soon after we ordered, a plate of pho accompaniments hit the table.  My keen-eyed friend spotted a caterpillar on the Thai basil! Eek! We saved the furry critter....well, I averted my eyes - I am not sure what happened to it.  I think it was placed safely on the table to freely roam about.

We ordered three different types of pho.

Standard pho - rare beef rice noodle soup
I had the original pho and was impressed by the intense colour of the broth.  It was a large bowl and I was stuffed by the time I finished.  The beef was thinly sliced, just how I like it.

My companions ordered the 'Special Pho' and Pho with tripe.

Again, both bowls were big and they loved the flavour of the broth.

Thanks to Luke Nguyen for his recommendation! I will have to return to Cabramatta to try another place for pho - it seems like everyone has their favourite along John Street and I need to compare!

Pho Viet Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Taste of Shanghai, Hurstville

I am always excited when chain restaurants open up in a local area.  Internally, a little happy dance takes place because I don't need to drive any further to get my fix of whatever it is!

Taste of Shanghai opened up a small store in Hurstville in the strip of restaurants along Forest Road near the Westfield.  I had been warned that there was usually a line for a table so I was not surprised that we had to take a number and wait fifteen minutes on a Sunday lunchtime.

Once inside, I realised it was very squishy! The tables are densely packed together and you are literally rubbing elbows with strangers.

We ordered three things to share for a light lunch.

Xiao long baos ($8.80)
Xiao long baos always disappear far too quickly.  One bite and they are gone.  Although I have never tested the theory, I believe I could eat two servings by myself in one sitting. 

I wanted to try some of the other flavoured xiao long baos but they were sold out on the day. 

Pan fried pork buns with sesame seeds ($9.80)
The pan fried pork buns are my second favourite dish to order at Shanghainese dumpling restaurants.  They have the same filling as the xiao long baos but with the added bonus of crispy pan fried bottoms and soft doughy outers.

Pork and prawn wonton soup ($8.80)

The wonton soup came in a very small bowl and each wonton was teeny tiny.  I could taste a hint of the prawns which had been finely diced into small morsels and mixed with the pork.  I thought it was a bit pricey for the amount that you got and I probably wouldn't order this one again.

When it was time to leave, I stood up to exit and could not move from my seat.  I was boxed in on all sides by other patrons! After frantically spinning around in circles looking for an escape route, a lady to my left stood up from her seat so that I could squeeze through into the aisle.  After inching out of the cramped space, I felt like running into the street outside for some open air and space!

Taste of Shanghai on Urbanspoon

Encasa, Haymarket (2)

It has been a while since I have been to Encasa, a Spanish tapas restaurant located on Pitt Street near Central Station.   Whenever Encasa is mentioned, I nod knowingly and exclaim "That place is always so busy!" Despite my act of my familiarity, I must confess that I have only been there once previously - about three years ago - but in my defence, not much has changed and the menu still looks the same.

Bookings are strongly recommended for Friday and Saturday nights. We had originally booked for 8pm on a Friday but ended up being ready for dinner at 7pm.  They offered a spot on a long table sharing with others on the proviso that we leave at 8pm.  We were hungry and readily accepted the offer.

Sangria ($19 per jug)

We ordered a number of dishes to share between the two of us.  

Chorizo a la Plancha - Grilled Spanish sausage - 10.5

Patatas Bravas - Fried potato w/ garlic mayonnaise and spicy tomato salsa ($9.50)

ChampiƱones al Ajillo - Sizzling garlic mushrooms ($9.50)

Out of the three tapas plates that we ordered off the normal menu, I liked the potatoes with their garlicky mayonnaise sauce the best.  The small button mushrooms were also tasty in their garlic oil.  So much garlic, it is inevitable that you will leave with garlic breath of some sort.

I was not a huge fan of the chorizo, it tasted a bit bland and had too many lumpy bits!

We also ordered two dishes off the 'specials' menu. I think both dishes were about the $25 mark.

Proscuitto wrapped prawns with polenta cake, eggplant mash and salsa verde

This plate had an odd combination of flavours on the plate.  I didn't mind each element individually but all together, it was a bit strange.

 Jamon and cheese croquettes with sweet potato crisps

This was another odd pairing and I thought it was a overpriced for the three small croquettes on the plate.

The next time I visit (which will probably end up being another three years if my track record is anything to go by), I will stick to ordering off the normal menu!

Encasa on Urbanspoon

Easy Cooking: Christmas Turkey for beginners

I haven't done an Easy Cooking post in a while and as an indication on my backlog of posts, here is one that I meant to post (much) earlier this year. 

As Christmas time has come and passed us yet again, I thought I would share a great recipe for a fail-proof Christmas turkey - just in time for your Christmas in July celebrations! (Thanks to Brian D for pointing out the Christmas in July tie-in).  The best thing about this recipe is how easy it is - I have read many other turkey recipes which have turned me off due to the lengthy list of ingredients and need for regular basting.

It is a recipe from entitled 'Moist and Tender Turkey Breast Recipe' - you can click here to see the recipe (I also find it helpful to read through the reviews to see other people's tips and tricks on modifying the original recipe).

Basically the recipe requires three things: a turkey, a jar of mayonnaise and chicken broth.  Of course you can add additional ingredients based on your own flavoring preferences but those are the basic three elements.

The mayonnaise keeps the turkey moist so that you don't need to baste it.  During the cooking time, the mayo is absorbed into the meat and don't worry - the turkey is not going to taste like mayonnaise.

I like to add some vegetables to the broth to add flavour to the drippings for making gravy.   I also like to use just the turkey breast (ie the turkey breast buffet) with drumsticks attached, free range from Coles or Woolworths.  Even the turkey breast alone can weigh a few kilos so be prepared for cooking time of a few hours.

Here are some pics of my turkey this year:

So have a go at roasting the next time you have a hankering for some turkey - it is so easy to do and trust me, everyone will be very impressed.

Suminoya, Sydney CBD

Suminoya is one of my favourite places to eat with friends. Not only is there fun novelty value to try and order as much food as possible and cook it within the 90 minute time limit, but there is also a great variety of side dishes on the menu too (which don't require any cooking).

I believe I can call myself a seasoned Suminoya visitor and here are my tips for a successful visit:
  • dress casually in old clothes because you are going to leave smelling of bbq smoke.  The smoke is impossible to escape despite the little vents above each grill;
  • each time you call the waiter over, try to order as much as possible because it is a pain trying to get their attention.  There never seem to be enough staff to service the hungry buffet customers so when you manage to flag one down, make sure you order as much as you can to save yourself trying to catch them again;
  • if possible, get a table upstairs - the one time that I sat downstairs, we were tucked away in a corner and it was even more impossible to catch the attention of staff;
  • last order is taken after 60 minutes but you can continue to cook until the 90 minutes is up; and
  • lastly, this is a bit harsh but my personal preference is to go with other seasoned Suminoya visitors!  Going with other people who know how Suminoya works is an added bonus because the whole dinner runs more efficiently - everyone assumes their cooking positions, plates are quickly moved around the table as the food lands, meat is rapidly maneuvered around the grill for even cooking and other small gems e.g. seasoned visitors know not to freak out when the grill goes up in flames and almost singes your eyebrows - just move the tinfoil items to smother the fire!
There are two dinner buffet options - the regular selection for $45 and the premium selection  for $55.  We usually choose the premium option because it includes sashimi.

Here are some photos from my most recent visit to Suminoya - I wanted to take some more pics but seasoned visitors know there is no time to waste when there is a time limit on eating!

Some of the sides - kimchee, sashimi (scallop, salmon, kingfish and tuna) and edamame

Here is another tip - the sashimi is listed on the menu as 2 pcs each so when you order, make sure to multiply it by how many pieces you actually want.

Seafood and seaweed salad

This is my favourite salad on the Suminoya menu, I usually order two bowls for myself because it is so yummy! It has a spicy wasabi mayo dressing and some thin slices of salmon sashimi, prawns and seaweed on top of mixed leaves.

Protein cooking on the grills - mmm...

 And of course, dessert!  In my opinion, the best dessert item is the green tea ice cream.  Since it is a buffet, I usually order a few more things to try that I never end up finishing.  To the right of the green tea ice cream is an apple sorbet and strawberry fruiche.

You must understand that these pictures depict about one-twentieth of the food consumed on the night.  There hasn't been a time where I haven't left Suminoya feeling absolutely stuffed to the gills, swearing that I'm not coming back for at least another year.

But who can resist another visit?

Suminoya Japanese on Urbanspoon

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